04/10/2015 12:10 pm ET Updated Jun 10, 2015

The Staying Power of Snapchat


Ahhh, Snapchat. The unruly, misbehaved teenager of the social media family that we can't help but love. Through the years, we've watched the app evolve from a glorified platform for exchanging nudes all the way to the international and journalistic hub of information it is now. Somehow, someway, Snapchat's millions of users and the little ghost that could have managed to survive one controversy after another--and it doesn't look like they'll be stopping anytime soon.

Snapchat released the latest update to the app just this week, which employs specific emojis to distinguish your relationships with your friends (who you're snapping the most, who's snapping you the most, whether or not the person you snap the most snaps you the most, blah blah blah). However, these emojis are private and can only be seen by the user, ridding the app of the controversy it used to face when the "best friends lists" allowed users to view the names of the people their friends were snapping with the most.

Snapchat removed these BFF lists earlier this year, which led to an uproar amongst teens across the globe who used the lists as a way to gauge potential relationships and ruin existing ones. Admit it--there was always something unsettling about knowing your significant other was snapping away with someone else and all you could do was sit back and watch.

While you can no longer view who bae is snapping with, Snapchat is no less of an outlet for social validation and competition. The new emoji system is essentially rewarding users for the amount of snaps that they send--a sneaky but effective way for the app to engage them as long as possible. According to Digital Trends, it all comes down to the gamification of social interaction, and the emoji codes are "a subtle psychological prodding to encourage users to keep sending snaps, even if it's for artificial reasons." In other words, Snapchat is using something as meaningless as emojis to get inside our heads and make us feel the need to question and validate our relationships--and worse, we're letting them do so.

Aside from all the controversy, Snapchat has done some growing up over the years. In January, the app launched a new feature known as "Discover," which they dubbed as a "collaboration with world-class leaders in media to build a storytelling format that puts the narrative first." Essentially, the feature allows you to view videos, stories and advertising from major media outlets such as CNN, ESPN, National Geographic, Yahoo!, etc. right where you'd view your friends' Snapchat stories as well. The way I see it, this is Snapchat's way of hanging with the "big dogs" of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, who rely on breaking news, reporting and the sharing of information to remain relevant.

While whether or not new features like "Discover" have increased user engagement is debatable, I'm happy to see Snapchat attempting to make a name for themselves amongst the world of heavy-hitting social media journalism. Although the move may not make adults take the app more seriously, it certainly demonstrates Snapchat's ability to evolve and adjust to the needs of its ever-expanding audience.

In the end, your Snapchat experience is truly what you make of it. Whether you want to use it as a source for breaking news or as a way to keep an eye on your boyfriend is up to you. Regardless, the versatility of the app continues to engage millions of us across the globe, as we wait anxiously to see just how the Snapchat gods plan to ruin our social lives next.